Haberlea rhodopensis

(Haberlea rhodopensis )
It is found in specific sites, in which a significant number of plants may be recorded. Perennial, herbaceous plant, with leaves placed (above ground) in a circular pattern (rosette).
Sophia Siggiridou_Kostas Vidakis, MSc

Distribution of the species

Haberlea is a rare Balkan endemic. It is found exclusively in central and southern Bulgaria and in some mountains in northeastern Greece. In Paggaio, there is a small population, the southernmost of the species, at altitudes ranging between 1,500 and 1,850 m asl. It occurs in a few limestone, wet, shady places, usually of north or northwest orientation, in rock cracks and rocky outcrops, in shady ravines, in conditions that offer the plant shelter from drought and cold.

Description of the species (biological and ecological features)

It is found in specific sites, in which a significant number of plants may be recorded. Perennial, herbaceous plant, with leaves placed (above ground) in a circular pattern (rosette). The rosettes, many together, form large formations. The leaves are obovate to oblanceolate, with serrated edges, quite hairy on the lower surface. The color of the leaves is dark green on the upper surface, brown or purple on the lower surface. Flowering stems 8-18 cm long, covered with hairs, with 2-5 flowers, growing from the leaf rosette. Flowers 2-lipped. The upper one is bluish-purple, divided into 2 lobes, while the lower one, with 3 lobes (rounded divisions), is whitish and has yellow and reddish spots inside. The petals form a fairly large and flattened tube. It flowers from April to early July (depending on altitude). It belongs to the group of plants that scientists call “paleoendemics”, i.e., the evolutionary representatives of ancient species that have survived for millions of years. Relic species of the Tertiary period (geological period representing the period between 65 and 2.5 million years before present), one of the five species of the tropical plant family Gesneriaceae remaining in Europe. It belongs to the plants known as resurrection plants, or lazarists, due to their ability to revive; their ability to withstand drought and cold for a long time (up to 31 months), giving the impression that they have died with their dehydrated leaves wrinkled and closed, but when they are re-hydrated (after rain), “resurrect” within a few hours, returning to their previous normal state and appearance. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice may also be associated with haberlea. In an ancient coin, the Thracian Orpheus is shown holding his lyre, sitting next to a plant with leaves in a rosette. Is it haberlea? Maybe.

At present, no action has been reported that could lead to the destruction of its habitat and a reduction in its population. However, its recorded locations should be taken into account during the planning of technical projects that are going to be implemented at relatively high altitudes.

Conservation status


Conservation state

The species, primarily due to its limited distribution, is classified as Vulnerable (VU), based on the IUCN classification, and has a high risk of extinction in the medium term. It is included in the list of plant species of Presidential Decree 67/81 (Government Gazette 23 / A / 30-01-1981) “On the protection of native flora and fauna and the definition of a procedure for coordinating and controlling their research” and in the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Its importance was recognized by the EU, incorporating it into 92/43/EEC Directive (Annex II. Animal and plant species of Community interest the conservation of which requires the designation of special conservation zones).